Today I spent some time fleshing out sentient species that players might use for player characters in a Runequest campaign. I know this is subject to diminishing returns, in that if I develop more species than players, some or most of them will not be used. In my Dragon Age game, only one of my five players wanted to play a non-human at campaign launch, although we later ret conned one of the player characters to be a half-elf. So one of the considerations for me is that each of the species I develop is something that helps explain my campaign world, and will provide NPCs and plot lines for me to use in the play of a campaign.
First Draft – Player Character Species for the Tarantium Campaign
Humans are the dominant race of Koth, both numerically – representing 80 per cent of the world’s population, and politically – ruling all the major Empires and most of the minor Kingdoms and independent enclaves. If you choose to play a non-human species, you should be aware that it is likely to have fewer legal rights than humans, and may encounter prejudice from merchants and officials.
If you wish to play a specific species of your own choosing not from this list, we can probably work something out. If its derived from classical mythology, then it may be a Courtly race, but if its from more recent fantasy, then its likely to be a Conquered species. The Courtly Folk include:
- Arani (a giant spider)
- Brachi (a sentient crab)
- Ghoul (a humanoid carrion eater)
- Minotaur (as per classical mythology)
- Sobek (a crocodile headed humanoid)
The Conquered Peoples include:
- Alfandi (light skinned, dark haired elves, once farmed the fields of the citadels)
- Telchari (hairless dwarves, once maintained the sewers in the citadels)
- Vargr (bipedal wolves, pack creatures with chaotic governments)
- Vordar (dark skinned, light haired, elves, once the wardens of the citadels).
Arani, Brachi and Vordar do not play well with others of their own species. Only one PC in the party can come from each of these species. Ghouls, Sobek and Vargr enjoy and actively seek out the company of others of their own species, unless they are insane or undertaking a ritual quest that requires solitude.
The Arani spider folk made a deal with the Taran family in the Founding Age, lending them the Arani matriarch’s oracle power, in exchange for protection and a place in society. Arani are respected in the Tarantine Empire, and feared elsewhere. Male Arani are by nature hunter-killers rather than ambushing or web-spinning spiders (which the female Arani are). They do not hunt in packs, and do not enjoy the company of other male Arani. They do respect knowledge, with many becoming scholars, and while not as adept at intrigue as the matriarchs, a few become skilled politicians.
In Tarantium, the male Arani are a bit like the younger sons of noble families, members of an important social class, but not terribly important in of themselves. Some descend to the ground in search of adventure and food, others work for the Empire in a number of roles, and a few just stay close to the Matriarch’s Court, even though this can result in an early death in the mating season.
Only male Arani can be played by PCs – the females are double the SIZ of males and too magically powerful to be balanced for a game. Young Arani males have dark brown – almost black – fur, which lightens to a tan brown colour as they mature. As male Arani age their fur slowly whitens, and the most dangerous elders reach a translucent white colour and can terrify almost any opponent. Male Arani have the following special abilities:
- Adhering – as long as the Arani does not wear more than quilted/padded armour on its legs, it can move freely on vertical surfaces and ceilings
- Combat Style – Eight Legged Horror (allows use of Grappling and Venom abilities)
- Darksense – the eight eyes of the Arani are good for detecting creatures in complete darkness, the spider can make perception checks to detect prey within INT metres of its locations
- Exoskeleton – an Arani has Armour Points in all hit locations equal to SIZ/7 (round down), armour can be worn over this but a full set of armour is likely to cost double what it would cost a human, due to the skill needed to allow freedom of movement for all eight limbs
- Grappling – with a successful unarmed attack, you Grapple in addition to inflicting damage, if the attack was parried you gain the Grip effect on a limb, or the Pin effect on a weapon, use your Brawn skill to resist attempts to break free.
- Improve SIZ – you can always spend experience checks to improve your SIZ, as long as you have consumed sentient magic-using creatures with SIZ/POW greater than your current SIZ/POW within the last lunar month
- Intimidate – this ability is unlocked when the Arani’s SIZ reaches 20, opponents must make Willpower checks to stand their ground if you threaten them
- Tool using – two of the front limbs are slightly shorter and have developed for manipulating tools, although Arani are clumsy compared to ten fingered humans they can wield weapons and shields, but they if the hilts/grips are not designed for their use they will struggle with them (make skill checks more difficult)
- Venom – if the mandibles of the Arani are not impeded by a helmet, they can bite with a 1d6 damage attack anyone they have grappled, if this penetrates any armour, it paralyses the victim after 1d6 rounds (can be resisted) and then does 1 HP of damage per hour to every hit location thereafter as the venom liquefies the insides of the victim, the paralysis effect lasts for CON/4 hours.
Arani use a different hit location table than the humanoid races. See p.389 in RQVI.
Arani names: tend to be complicated and elegant, so much so their companions usually make a nickname for them.
Common Arani passions:
- Loyalty (Arani Matriarchs)
- Fear (Arani Matriarchs)
- Love (Stalking Prey)
- Respect (Teacher)
- Loyalty (Tarantine Empire)
Note: Arani are more powerful than humans (although they lose some abilities if wearnig heavy armour), but much harder to roleplay, and there won’t be any casual sexual encounters in taverns.
The Brachi are sentient crabs, known for their intelligence and curiosity. They feature in a few myths and legends, sometimes as a trickster figure, but often as a hapless companion of the hero who needs rescuing. They survived the Cataclysm by clinging to rocks and crawling into small tunnels for the ride down from the Moon and are now found throughout the world.
Brachi have a bad reputation for thievery, although they often quickly lose interest in the toys and shiny objects they make off with. If they have a favourite shiny object though, they will be very reluctant to part with it. While Brachi tend to talk/act first and think later, when they do think about a problem they often find solutions no one else thought of. Being smaller than most of the sentient races, they often prefer solving problems in non-violent ways, although if pushed around their claws can be dangerous.
If taught to read and write, Brachi make good scholars and engineers … although careful mentoring is needed to make sure they do not go off on tangents. Some Brachi also become good merchants as they love arguing and can haggle from sunrise to sunset to get the new shiny object at a good price.
Names: there is no logic or consistency to Brachi names, most are self selected and many are ludicrous.
See p.344 RQVI for Brachi hit locations.
- Burrowing: you can burrow through sand at your normal movement rate, and at quarter movement rate through earth, given enough time you could even work your way through stone
- Crushing Crustacean Pincers: attack with two pincers doing 1d6 damage
- Exoskeleton: Brachi have four armour points in all locations
- Formidable natural weapons: can parry/defelct with natural weapons (claws)
- Small: Brachi can be generated with a SIZ smaller than 8 if the player chooses this, a minimum SIZ of 3 is required, this can be an advantage in squeezing into small places, but it will disadvantage the character’s Hit Points and damage bonus
Common Brachi Passions:
- Desire (Shiny New Thing)
- Love (Learning New Facts)
- Love (Arguing)
- Respect (Best Friend in the Whole Wide World)
- Hate (Thief of Shiny Thing)
- Espouse (Pet Theory for Everything)
Note: this is the species to play if you want to annoy the hell out of everyone all the time.
The Ghouls first appeared in the legends of the Age of Rebellion, feasting on the corpses of the fallen. They are living creatures, not undead. Ghouls resemble humans in most ways, but are thinner, almost emaciated, deathly pale skin, their teeth are dominated by incisors for ripping flesh, and their fingernails are long and claw like. Ghouls require rotten meat to survive – they are carrion eaters – and normal cooked meat will make them vomit if they try and eat it.
Ghouls occupy a complex position in the margins of civilisation – they do the unpleasant jobs involving ritual pollution that other races prefer not to engage in. Ghouls are found as butchers, tanners, embalmers, executioners and soldiers. If its a filthy, disgusting job, they get to do it, usually for low wages. As long as Ghouls follow the appropriate cleansing rituals, pay taxes and obey the laws, they are left alone. The Tarantine Emperors have often intervened to prevent pogroms against Ghouls – “The coins they pay in taxes smell like those of any other citizen I have sworn to protect.”
Civilised Ghouls wear elaborate headdress and scarves that conceal their disjointed jaws, and gloves that hide their claws. Asking a ghoul to remove their clothing is a very offensive act, one that will alienate the local Ghoul community and could lead to challenges. Ghoul buildings tend to be a warren of tight one way passages and dead ends, and entry into them is considered a polluting act – few people would do it without good cause.
On the ground, some Ghouls have degenerated into feral packs, ambushing and devouring unwary travellers. These packs are hunted down ruthlessly, with fire and the sword.
Names: Arabic culture names are suitable for Ghouls.
- Death Sense: a ghoul can sense the death of nearby living creatures, or the location of dead flesh, they have an instinctive feel for scouting out places of death, such as cemeteries, battlefields and abattoirs
- Hardened Skin: one point of natural armour
- Regeneration: if able to feast on large quantities of dead flesh, Ghouls can regenerate lost limbs at a rate of 1 Hit Point per location per week, damage caused by fire cannot be regenerated
- Teeth and Claws: Ghoul teeth do 1d3+1d2 damage, and their claws do 1d4+1d2 damage, plus any damage bonus
Common Ghoul Passions:
- Respect (Tradition)
- Desire (Carrion)
- Observe (Ritual)
- Loyalty (Family)
Note: a good choice for someone wanting to play the aloof outsider. Like a lot of choices I intend for Tarantium, its not evil, just a darker than average shade of grey. Its inspired by the Ghul in Amanda Downum’s novel The Kingdoms of Dust.
Minotaurs were bred for war by Mal, an unholy fusion of man and beast. Despite all attempts to compel loyalty, Mal found that Minotaurs were largely uncontrollable, although they could be corrupted to enjoy the blood rage of battle. Getting them back in line again afterwards was difficult. During the course of the Age of the Rebellion, many Minotaurs deserted or defected to join the rebels. Their hatred of Mal and his children, and their works and deeds, is deep and abiding due to the way they were used as expendable shock troops.
More than almost any other race, Minotaurs have embraced Koth. Most have migrated to the ground, where they survive by herding animals and trading for the fruits and grains that dominate their diet. Only a few families remain in the flying cities, where they have proven to excel in the various divine cults, hewing carefully to the old traditions.
Minotaurs have the following abilities:
- Earthstrong: Minotaurs lose the minimum amount of Areté on failed Areté checks (unless they are deliberately seeking out Forbidden Lore in which case the normal Areté loss applies)
- Horns and Hide: Minotaurs have three Armour Points in the head. They require custom made helms due to their horns. The Horns can be used to Gore for 1d8 damage.
Names: Ancient Greek culture names are suitable for Minotaurs.
See p.375-377 in RQVI for more information on Minotaurs. The Shaman profession is not available to Minotaurs, and Minotaurs do not have any language penalties.
Note: in RQVI RAW, Minotaurs have much better SIZ/STR characteristics than humans do. In Tarantium they do not get any bonus to characteristics, but the Earthstrong ability and lack of language penalty should compensate for this. Areté is functionally equivalent to SAN in a Call of Cthulhu game.
The Sobek are crocodile headed bipedal humanoids with scaly skin. In myths and legends they are encountered by rivers and other bodies of water, as simple hunter/gatherers, traders and explorers. When the Shining Court was established, many Sobek moved there to indulge in the delights of civilisation and to bask in the reflected light of the Palace. In the Age of Rebellion, the Sobek were the most loyal of all races to Mal, only turning on him when his defeat was clear.
Sobek both respect and desire power, but are often limited by their desire to enjoy the pleasures of life to the full, which includes late breakfasts and basking through the mid day sun. Sobek are often found in criminal gangs, happy to knife someone for a few coins or a cup of wine, or they may be hard-working and enterprising members of merchant guilds, cults, and other organisations … but always likely to be playing the long game of politics. Groups dominated by Sobek often experience prolonged and bitter struggles for power. If a Sobek does rise to undisputed dominance, they can command near fanatical loyalty from their Sobek underlings.
The most important Sobek rite of passage is the acquisition of a weapon. Thereafter a Sobek is never without a weapon – even if it just a small concealed knife. Because Sobek feel the cold more than other species, they often wear several layers of clothing and even wear furs in mid summer.
Of all the creatures of the Moon, the Sobek have most fallen in love with the Sun. Within the Covenant, the Sobek are the largest ethnic minority, after humans, and their ease with sun worship means they face less restrictions than the other non-human races. This has made life for those Sobek within the Tarantine Empire a little more difficult, as many of them are suspected of sympathising with the Covenant’s aims.
Names: Ancient Egyptian culture names are suitable for Sobek.
Sobek have the following abilities:
- Tough scales: one point of natural armour in all hit locations
- Bite: 1d8 attack from their very sharp teeth
- Cold Blooded: Sobek do not need to eat frequently, only requiring one meal a week, but cold temperatures make them sluggish and torpid (they sleep through much of winter and stay awake through much of summer) – without warm clothing they lose six Strike Ranks and one Action Point in cold weather
- Hold Breath: if prepared a Sobek can hold its breath underwater for CON minutes (halve this duration if swimming or fighting).
Common Sobek Passions:
- Indulge (Decadent Vice)
- Respect (Power)
- Desire (Warmth)
- Retain (Weapon)
Note: this is the Lizardman/Ophidian race for Tarantium. As sun loving creatures, Night Sense did not make much sense, so I swapped it for Hold Breath. The Bite attack damage has been increased, but Sobek don’t have a venomous bite.
The Conquered Peoples I am still working on. The Vargr will be familiar to anyone who has played Traveller, as I loved playing them. The other species are the standard FRPG cliches, with the Telchari being pretty much a straight import from my current Dragon Age game. There will be other sentient races, but they will be almost universally hostile to humanity, and so will be unsuited for PC use.